March 20, 2006

Movie Review: She's the Man

It is an interesting thing that I went to see this movie. I am still unsure why I went. I am clearly not a part of the target audience, nor did I have any particular reason to see Amanda Bynes on the big screen, I don't even think I've ever seen her in anything outside of the entertainment news programs that I see bits and pieces of. Well, whatever the case is, I did, I went and saw it, and surprisingly, I was entertained. This is no cinematic classic, but it is successful at being a fun movie.

She's the Man is loosely based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Let me emphasize that it is a loose adaptation, in a way similar to how 10 Things I Hate About You was based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

Amanda Bynes is Viola, a high school soccer star whose team has just been cut at her prep school. Wanting to prove her worth, she asks to tryout for the boys team. When that falls through, her brother conveniently leaves town for a few weeks. This allows her to take her brother's, her twin, place at a rival school.

So, does Amanda Bynes play a convincing boy? The short answer is no. I could go on to say that anyone who believes her as a boy is foolish. The idea that she could pull it off is absurd, what with having to take showers and dealing with typical male pranks, I doubt that the charade would last long. The good thing, is that the breezy pace of the movie and the lightness of the material glosses over that in exchange for a fun tale of teen love and mistaken identity.

The film sets up an intricate series of love interests. Duke likes Olivia, who likes Sebastian/Viola, then there are Viola and Sebastian's respective ex's who also come into play. There are some fun interactions as Viola tries to keep up the charade and play soccer while fending off Olivia and trying to find a way to tell Duke the truth. Then there is Viola's mother who dreams of her daughter being a d├ębutante, and never discovering the truth until the appropriate unveiling when all is, uh, revealed.

I must say that two of the most entertaining characters only get a little bit of screen time. First is Vinnie Jones as the soccer coach, an in your face scary kind of guy. Jones made his name playing British gangster types in films like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and will be seen in the upcoming X3. His limited screen time was very entertaining. Then there is David Cross as the principal of the prep school. This guy is great at playing these weird and quirky characters, here he plays what seems like an extension of his Tobias Funke character from Arrested Development.

As light diversion, She's the Man delivers. There is nothing objectionable, which is strange considering the PG-13 rating. The teens in the crowd seemed to be really liking the film, and to an extent I did like it. It did, however, feel like an overgrown made-for-TV movie. There is a little too much mugging for my tastes. Bynes expressions are a bit to the big side, more suited to a TV screen.

It is the kind of movie that, if you try to apply any level of real world logic, it quickly falls apart. This is the kind of movie that, with the right energy, you need to just go with it, believe in the internal logic. On that level it is fun.

This is primarily a vehicle for Amanda Bynes, and it works. I may not care for the excessive mugging and overdone expressions, but I cannot deny the energy she brings to the screen. Given a good script and director, her infectious enthusiasm could be focused into something special. Her acting may not be ready for primetime, but she has the tools that can be honed and made into something. She definitely displays a great deal of adorable charisma in this one.

Bottomline. Not great, not perfect, not even necessarily good, but it is fun and infectious. Bynes has great energy on the screen. The film has a flawed real world logic, but it sets its rules and plays by them. Overall, this is a fun movie for teens and their parents.

Mildly Recommended. **.5 / *****

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